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Google ‘In Your Social Circle’ Personalized Searches Appear in Beta

Google has released a new personalized, custom search result added “in beta” to their search engine results when you are opted-in to the “Google profile” and have shared your Twitter profile, blogs, Picasa, and other public services via that Google profile (I’m also opted-in to Google Buzz). Those you are connected to show up on your search engine results page (SERP). It’s unnerving to see faces you recognize in search results and a bit unsettling to see that personalized result on a Google search result – even though this specific result is not visible to others, unless they’ve done the same search and are connected to the same people.

In the result shown in the screenshot below, I had just done a search after writing a blog post on “Google Shopper“, (which I then tweeted on Twitter) to see if my blog or my tweet turned up in the Google Real-Time results. It didn’t. I suppose that there weren’t enough people discussing Google Shopper on Twitter or in the news to trigger that real-time component.

Google 'In Your Social Circle' Personalized Search

Google 'In Your Social Circle' Personalized Search

My “Social Circle” includes WebProNews Staff Writer Chris Crum, who I follow on Twitter. I’ve also contributed to WebProNews for years and communicate with him on occasion by email. But this is where things get interesting – if you click that little link labeled “My Social Circle” outlined in red, it takes you to a page which displays all the connections you have via Google who also have Google profiles and who have made that profile public and searchable. That number is limited now since large numbers of people have not yet chosen to make a Google Profile or to make that profile public. Google encourages you to recruit new people into Google profile with this line

If you would like to see more content from your Google contacts, encourage them to create a Google profile and add links to their content there.

Now things get even more interesting where Google shows your connections with people on services you’ve connected via your profile, in my case – it’s Picasa Web Albums where my photos are stored, Google Reader, Blogger profiles, Twitter and FaceBook. Where things get really interesting is where Google shows me all of my connections’ connections. That list is much longer – but I wonder – has everyone on that list is opted-in to Google profiles and have they also agreed explicitly that they want to be listed as part of a social circle of strangers who are connected to their friends?Google also shows you how your connections are connected and through which services by clicking on a link labeled “Show Paths” which, when clicked, expands to show which services connect your connections. Make no mistake, your social graph is deeply and thoroughly understood by Google via Google profile.

There could be some privacy implications here if those connections of connections have opted-in to say, Twitter and FaceBook, but not to Google profiles. Do they want to be seen for all those connections to all the strangers connected to their connections? It’s getting kind of murky in here.

One of the things that is becoming increasingly clear is how the Google “cloud” of services and social connections could cause some (privacy) rain to fall on Google when unintended social connections lead to rattled nerves and more lawsuits. What is public, what is semi-private, and where is the bright line that will keep everyone happy and Google out of the privacy doghouse?

Here’s Google’s description of the “Social Circle Search Result”.

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